Review

Microsoft All-in-One Media Keyboard review

A few days back, Microsoft announced a new media keyboard designed for the living room. Because of this, it's built a bit differently than a keyboard that you would typically place on a desk, as this piece of hardware is designed for your lap.

The media keyboard rings up the register at $39.95 and is comprised of all plastic, as the keyboard is designed to be durable. In a briefing we had at BUILD 2014 about the device, Microsoft said it was built to withstand the demands of the living room, which includes kids, pets and spills. Knowing this, the design is exactly what you would expect for a device that should be able to stand up to a toddler's terror or a spilled glass of wine. 

Across the top of the device are media keys you have come to expect on Microsoft devices such as media controls, Windows 8 action buttons, and three customizable media hotkeys. On the left side of the device is a mouse button and volume controls.

What separates this keyboard from other devices is that the right side of the peripheral features a built-in trackpad. This is a key feature, as it takes your media setup in your living room and reduces it to one peripheral; no longer do you have to go looking for a mouse. 

In use, the device fits its niche quite well. While the keys are a bit spongy and the plastic housing leave some room for improvements, for a keyboard designed to be hooked up to a media PC or even your Xbox One, it works well. One caveat with the Xbox setup is that the trackpad will not work with the Xbox One, which is a bit of a downer, but it's a feature Microsoft could likely easily enable in the near future.

One thing that I do love about Microsoft peripherals – and this keyboard is no exception – is that they always have batteries included. Additionally, this keyboard uses a USB dongle to connect to your intended device. While we would love to see a Bluetooth option as well, USB seems to make the most sense as it is more universal than Bluetooth, especially in home theater setups. 

On the back of the device are five rubber feet that help keep it planted on hard surfaces. While the keyboard can be used with a traditional PC, we would shy against that – on a desk, it's not the most comfortable keyboard I've used. But, put the device on your lap, and it feels right at home.

The trackpad supports gestures like swiping, scrolling and, of course, pinch-to-zoom. In use, the trackpad is about the same size, if not slightly larger, as a trackpad on a 13-inch notebook and it had no issues picking up our gestures. The trackpad also has left and right click areas as well and the engagement of these buttons feels confident. The volume up/down keys on the far left side are quite stiff; it feels like the pivot point for the rocker is too large and you have to hit the edge of the buttons to get them to engage but this is a small quibble.

One thing to keep and mind – where it's obvious that this is a media keyboard and not a power-user keyboard – is that there is no print screen, end or scroll lock keys. Not a big deal, but something you should be aware of if you are going to buy this peripheral for anything other than a media setup.

For just $39.95 from the Microsoft Store, this media keyboard is a great buy for the price. As long as you need a media keyboard and not a replacement for your desktop, I highly recommend it. The price is right in line with the build quality and feature set, and even though it's not perfect for all scenarios, as a media keyboard, this one gets it right.

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>>One thing to keep and mind - where it's obvious that this is a media keyboard and not a power-user keyboard - is that there is no print screen, end or scroll lock keys. Not a big deal, but something you should be aware of if you are going to buy this peripheral for anything other than a media setup.

So much for taking screenshots for copying and pasting into your fave photo app. :(

It looks nearly identical to the Logitech one, seems just as good though. I guess the decision will be made on price between the two.

Very nice. I'm a fan of micro keyboard remotes for my HTPC's. I use a Rii key air with a trackpad in the middle. The whole thing is only maybe like 3 or 4 inches wide. Good size for the living room. Not sure I'd want that large a device and definitely a backlight.

Ordered one yesterday. We have the Logitech TK820 which is very nice but very expensive (some £90 in the UK), and there isn't a plain black variety. This I got for £28 delivered so can't wait for it to arrive.

When will MS figure out that keyboards can be backlit and people want that! Heck, even my remote is backlit because I use it in a dark room... The same dark room they think this keyboard should be in.

My keysonic ACK-616RF has served me well the past few years. I do like the look of the trackpad though on this keyboard.

Looks like a copy of a Mac keyboard (with a trackpad on the side). Microsoft hardware used to have a unique look to it. Now manufacturing cost comes first.

Would have liked it better if the keys were a slightly different color to the base, and if they were back-lit slightly (just enough to see them in a dark room). Back-light could be triggered by an accelerometer, physical button, or other sensor.

68k said,
Looks like a copy of a Mac keyboard (with a trackpad on the side). Microsoft hardware used to have a unique look to it. Now manufacturing cost comes first.
Wut? Go home, you're drunk.
Would have liked it better if the keys were a slightly different color to the base
Yep, a Mac person.
they were back-lit slightly (just enough to see them in a dark room). Back-light could be triggered by an accelerometer, physical button, or other sensor.
Finally, common ground.

This looks nothing like mac keyboards. And I don't think mac keyboards have built in trackpads. Apple has a desktop trackpad that's the same shape and fits with their desktop keyboards, but it's not integrated.

Covered in the review:

While the keys are a bit spongy and the plastic housing leave some room for improvements, for a keyboard designed to be hooked up to a media PC or even your Xbox One, it works well. One caveat with the Xbox setup is that the trackpad will not work with the Xbox One, which is a bit of a downer, but it's a feature Microsoft could likely easily enable in the near future.

I was initially excited to see something like this, but then quickly found that Logitech had been doing it for some time. Every mouse and KB I own is from them and they all just work. One dongle for multiple devices, good range, build quality and cheaper. I just don't think there's anything about this that's compelling me to get one over Logitech. Competition is always good though and when Xbone full functionality ever arrives, that alone could make it a winner, but for now, I'll pass.

This isn't even Microsoft's first wireless keyboard - nor is it their only one, even today. (I personally have mentioned the Wireless Keyboard 6000 V.3, which I use today.) Without Microsoft's wireless peripherals, do you think that Logitech would keep their nose to the grindstone in that area (or wireless mice - in which the two also compete head to head)?

Did I just read a ten paragraph review about a *wireless* *htpc* keyboard and not see a word about range? I'm sure glad there was a full paragraph about it including batteries though. Perhaps have someone who uses devices like this outside of a dorm room do this review.

a lot of you are missing the point of this keyboard. so I will say it again IT IS FOR A MEDIA SET-UP, HTPC and not a gaming keyboard.

The only thing I do not like is that is is not backlit. AS I do watch movies in a dark room some times.

TheReaperMan said,
a lot of you are missing the point of this keyboard. so I will say it again IT IS FOR A MEDIA SET-UP, HTPC and not a gaming keyboard.

The only thing I do not like is that is is not backlit. AS I do watch movies in a dark room some times.


Right on. Backlit and I'd love to know the range.

Logitech just came out with the K830 which is backlit and has a trackpad. Double the price of this but hey, it has more features. Wait for a sale and grab it if the price is too much. The $100 TK820 is sometimes on sale for $60 at Amazon, so the K830 should probably hit that on sales.

if i could play dynamic games like shooters on this keyboard without having to use a mouse, it would be cool, otherwise its pretty much useless, since a regular keyboard from a store for $5 can do the same job

garou_heki said,
if i could play dynamic games like shooters on this keyboard without having to use a mouse, it would be cool, otherwise its pretty much useless, since a regular keyboard from a store for $5 can do the same job

This is not a gaming keyboard. Can your $5 keyboard be used to sit on the couch and control your HTPC across the room all through one accessory? That's what I thought. Stop being asinine.

siah1214 said,

This is not a gaming keyboard. Can your $5 keyboard be used to sit on the couch and control your HTPC across the room all through one accessory? That's what I thought. Stop being asinine.

true, but if i will be sitting on a couch i would prefer a regular tv set, im not that hi tech

garou_heki said,

true, but if i will be sitting on a couch i would prefer a regular tv set, im not that hi tech

Then you aren't the target audience. Just because you don't find it useful doesn't mean others wouldn't.

Would you say it's better than the Logitech K400? I hate the keys on that, plus the Function keys keep getting swapped to multimedia features at random due to the crappy software.

I love my K400. I didnt install any Logitech software though. Everything works out of the box on Windows 8 with it. Edge swiping, zoom, the whole bit.

sanke1 said,
Would have been an instant buy if there was numberpad in place of trackpad.

Would totally defeat the purpose, you're obviously not the target audience.

sanke1 said,
Would have been an instant buy if there was numberpad in place of trackpad.

Do you edit spreadsheets on your HTPC? :)

Good news for you, there's TONS of wireless keyboard with numpads instead of trackpads! TONS!

Microsoft hadn't released one before now so they made this. Logitech just released their third keyboard with a trackpad.

Oh boy, a built in trackpad/mouse pad!

Can't stand the one's on a laptop so I know I wouldn't be able to stand this one either. Stupid things are always clicking things that it shouldn't be clicking on.

Geez, thats huge. Much smaller and better alternatives available since like 2010.
Riitek makes nice little ones for example. And even if you dont want such small ones, the RT-MWK12 is still a much better alternative and much prettier too.

Why would you want it backlit? it just drains the battery. Don't get me wrong, I like a good backlit keyboard but never saw the point of a battery powered one, just seems silly :/

Xerxes said,
Why would you want it backlit? it just drains the battery. Don't get me wrong, I like a good backlit keyboard but never saw the point of a battery powered one, just seems silly :/

Because its obviously made for HTPCs. I know some people never turn their light off because of fear of whatever, but a lot actually watch movies in a dark room.
Look at the estabilished keyboards. Even much, much smaller ones have backlight and still have no problems with battery life. Ever heard of LEDs?

Edited by coolhund, Apr 26 2014, 11:29am :

coolhund said,

Because its obviously made for HTPCs. I know some people never turn their light off because of fear of whatever, but a lot actually watch movies in a dark room.
Look at the estabilished keyboards. Even much, much smaller ones have backlight and still have no problems with battery life. Ever heard of LEDs?

I'm well aware of LEDs (my current wired keyboard is LED backlit) and their low power usage. I just don't see the point of a backlit wireless keyboard. Even with the lights off, your still getting light from the TV screen anyway. If you prefer a wireless backlit keyboard more power to you. Personally it's not something I look for even if it's for a HTPC (which is what I bought my K400R for primarily).

EDIT: In case it's confusing, I'm not against backlit keyboards and as stated I do use a wired one. I just don't see the merits of a WIRELESS backlit keyboard. When I buy a wireless keyboard I favour battery life. From personal experience, things I've used that were battery operated AND backlit tend to have not that great battery life. If you found a backlit wireless keyboard with good battery life then that is great for you.

Edited by Xerxes, Apr 26 2014, 12:16pm :

coolhund said,

Because its obviously made for HTPCs. I know some people never turn their light off because of fear of whatever, but a lot actually watch movies in a dark room.
Look at the estabilished keyboards. Even much, much smaller ones have backlight and still have no problems with battery life. Ever heard of LEDs?


Never heard of guide keys? I would presume anyone geeky enough to build a HTPC could touch type.

Sicarius123 said,

Never heard of guide keys? I would presume anyone geeky enough to build a HTPC could touch type.

Ever heard that people who use that system are not everyone by a long shot? Even less on a keyboard to control the HTPC?

Xerxes said,

I'm well aware of LEDs (my current wired keyboard is LED backlit) and their low power usage. I just don't see the point of a backlit wireless keyboard. Even with the lights off, your still getting light from the TV screen anyway. If you prefer a wireless backlit keyboard more power to you. Personally it's not something I look for even if it's for a HTPC (which is what I bought my K400R for primarily).

EDIT: In case it's confusing, I'm not against backlit keyboards and as stated I do use a wired one. I just don't see the merits of a WIRELESS backlit keyboard. When I buy a wireless keyboard I favour battery life. From personal experience, things I've used that were battery operated AND backlit tend to have not that great battery life. If you found a backlit wireless keyboard with good battery life then that is great for you.

Most keyboards with backlight (even the wired ones) allow you to turn the lighting off. Battery life is no issue. Period.
And if you ever watched a movie in the dark you know very well that the light of the TV isnt enough to see all keys (it isnt even with a keyboard right in front of your monitor) or the movie is simply a dark one. I heard horror movies tend to be dark. ;)

All recent Samsung TV Remotes have backlight if you need it - just press a phosphorescent button and it's on. If this is for Media and HTPC it need nacklight - I always look at movies in the dark.

Sicarius123 said,

Never heard of guide keys? I would presume anyone geeky enough to build a HTPC could touch type.

I can touch-type yet I still prefer to have backlit keys. With a sensible time-out period they wouldn't have much of an impact on battery life and would greatly improve usability. It's rather arrogant to assume everyone can touch-type and wouldn't want backlighting.

I would have bought this if it was released already... I recently bought a good wireless keyboard for 19 pounds and this looks a lot sexier and better.